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Oman’s strategic location offers local exporters a competitive edge

Times of Oman
David Hunt, Trade Facilitation Lead at Oman Logistics Centre (OLC), ASYAD talks about Oman Export Week, the importance of Oman’s logistics sector and how local exporters, large and small, can take advantage of Oman’s outstanding road, sea and air logistics infrastructure

Why are events like Oman Export Week (OEW) so important?

Increasing exports ranks among the highest priorities for any government looking to stimulate economic growth. In this regard, Oman Export Week (OEW) will be an invaluable platform for Omani companies looking to expand existing exports or small companies considering the possibility of exporting for the first time. In fact, events like OEW provide participants with relevant information from local and international experts, giving them opportunities to explore avenues for business development they may not be able to pursue on their own. OEW will also offer participants the chance to network, develop business contacts and learn from others in the field.

What’s the outlook for Oman’s logistics sector?

Oman’s rapidly growing logistics sector is being developed as a key contributor to Oman’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after hydrocarbons. The Sultanate of Oman Logistics Strategy 2040 has set ambitious targets to drive Oman to the topof the global logistics sector. Indeed, by adopting cutting edge technologies and processes, new employment opportunities are created.

The government has already made a significant investment in developing the country’s ports and cargo facilities to support the logistics sector. The future is very bright. Right now, there is huge potential for logistic companies and exporters to make use of facilities like the new airport freight terminal and the future Khazaen inland port development, creating an Economic City as a central hub for logistics.

Technology is growing faster than ever. How is Oman’s logistics sector leveraging technology to help local exporters penetrate international markets?

This is certainly an area of opportunity for Oman, international studies show that e-commerce is underdeveloped here, meaning there is plenty of scope for people to reach out to the world and develop “Brand Oman”. Increasingly, local logistics providers are using e-commerce practices such as electronic reporting and international data transfer to improve service delivery and speed up supply chains. In-line with the government’s plans to implement international best practices in business, Oman recently adopted the International Air Transport Association’s electronic air waybill (e-AWB) standard, a replacement for paper air waybills — the contract of carriage for international airfreight shipments. To drive growth of customs bonded warehouses Oman published the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for bonded warehouses in August 2018. The issue of the new SOP is one of many initiatives designed to streamline, modernize and digitize customs procedures aimed at facilitating the speedy flow of import and export cargo through Omani ports and airports.

Where do you see the new export territories for Omani exporters?

To achieve fast and sustainable growth beyond domestic markets, Oman needs to proactively explore and enter new territories. With growth of online trade, Omani exporters can reach out to the whole world. The trick is in making the product stand out as unique, value for money and offer reliable delivery.

From a logistics perspective, what advice would you give an Omani company looking to go international?

Seeking international growth by going global as an exporter offers plenty of opportunities. I would suggest companies to do research first, identify target markets and to be sure there are opportunities to exploit. Logistics chain management is significant for global businesses and therefore companies must get their logistics chain worked out, so they can factor time and costs into their final pricing.

What advice would you give to a small Omani exporter looking to hire the services of a freight forwarder?

To streamline and simplify things, companies should opt for a comprehensive freight forwarding service provider offering a comprehensive range of professional services. Omani exporters should talk to prospective freight forwarders, understand what the companyoffers, and know if they will be able to deliver. Firms should also consider whether an exclusive arrangement is the way forward with guaranteed timeframes and fixed service fees.

How have international markets changed since the crash of 2008 and what changes do you anticipate in the near future?

Globally, the 2008 crash brought into focus the need for effective supply chains that are client-centric, cost effective, and guarantee service delivery. E-commerce practices are becoming increasingly important as international treaties on trade facilitation are negotiated and adopted. This has the effect of standardizing practices around the world, placing an emphasis on companies and governments to ensure timely and efficient delivery of goods and services.

What do you see as the three main challenges for small Omani exporters?

I am not an expert in this, but I would see creating a competitive presence in overseas markets, understanding market requirements and selling their unique or compelling value proposition could be among the challenges facing small Omani exporters.

Is it difficult to win the trust of a foreign client?

Yes, like any relationship, trust needs to be developed and that can only be achieved if commitments are met. That means goods must be as promised and delivered on-time within the agreed cost.

What assets do you think help Omani exporters win international customers?

Oman has a strategic geographic advantage, close to Europe, Asia and Africa offering local exporters a competitive edge. Recent improvements in the physical infrastructure of Oman’s ports and airports and government IT systems have driven improvements in global competitiveness rankings. At OLC we expect this upward trend to continue as more international best practices are adopted across government and business, this will further improve the perception of Oman as a logical place to trade with and through. Oman has a good reputation for quality goods, helped by its location at the middle of trade routes stretching out to much of the world. If local exporters get their marketing strategy right, the whole world will be available for them.

In which international direction would you like to see Omani exporters go?

Expanding business by exporting will help companies grow. I don’t think there’s any single direction to take as people have different business needs and target markets. It would be good to see more local start-ups become exporters. Hopefully, this is where Oman Export Week will really help.

What is the main thing you hope participants take away from Oman Export Week?

I am certain Oman Export Week will help participants understand the steps they need to take to develop their export potential. I hope people will come away better equipped to start export businesses because of the knowledge they gain from the workshops and the associated networking.

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